Jehovah's Witnesses Face Abuse Hearing

June 22, 2015

Jehovah's Witnesses, the sometimes controversial Christian church, is to face public examination by the royal commission into child sexual abuse in institutions.

A public hearing into the church will be held in Sydney starting on July 27, the commission announced on Monday.

The experience of survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses Church in Australia will be investigated as will its responses and those of its company - the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd - to allegations made against members.

The Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door proselytising as they spread the message of what they believe is the true meaning of the bible. They have sometimes gained publicity for their refusal to accept blood transfusions and have been accused of being a "cult".

In 2012 the church in the United States was involved in a court case in California which tested its obligation to tell parents of the child-abuse history of a member who molested a nine-year-old girl.

In April this year the US appeal court found Jehovah's Witnesses had no duty to reveal to parents or authorities the past history of a member but the Watchtower Society was ordered to pay $US2.8 million compensation to the parents of the girl.

The Australian commission will examine the systems, policies and procedures Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower company have in place deal with child abuse allegations here.

The commission will also ask what the church, which has more than 60,000 disciples in Australia, is doing to prevent child sexual abuse in its organisation.

The Jehovah's Witnesses case is the 29th study by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual abuse. The commission has already held public hearings into the Anglican and Catholic churches as well as other Christian churches, including the Salvation Army.

On Monday, the commission called for any person or institution who believes that they have a direct and substantial interest in the Jehovah's Witnesses hearing to lodge a written application for leave to appear at the public hearing by July 10.

A request for comment has been made to the church in Australia.








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